Madeira Island is one of the world’s most popular destinations for big game fishing.

Lying in the Atlantic Ocean nearly 1000 km (621 miles) from Lisbon, this verdant, sub-tropical jewel is lapped by the mild waters of the gulf stream and enjoys warm, comfortable summers and short, mild winters. This enviable climate makes it an enchanting and appealing all-year-round holiday destination.

For sport fishermen, the conditions are ideal. The summer months, between May and October, bring with them an abundance of sleek shark, Atlantic blue marlin and other splendid billfish.

In winter, from February through to late April, the cooler waters draw feisty bluefin and bigeye tuna, among other pelagic species. Actually, Madeira is ideally placed at the migratory route for large game fish, and the depths teem with sealife.

Taking full advantage of this marine paradise is the Balancal, a private sport-fishing vessel. Moored at Funchal marina, it’s available exclusively for residents and guests of Palheiro Estate.

The powerful, twin-engine motor yacht is suitable for eight persons and has a fly bridge with covered helm position. An original Pompanette fighting chair all the way from Florida is positioned at the stern.  

A day out on the ocean in search of the ‘Big One’ is an adrenaline-fuelled adventure.

The steely-eyed Atlantic blue marlin is smart and swift, a cunning adversary and the ultimate catch for any angler. To land a fish like this takes skill, courage and a boatload of respect for one of Nature’s most majestic and awe-inspiring creatures. Suitably, the Balancal operates a ‘catch and release’ policy.

The Balancal can also be chartered for more leisurely pursuits like whale and dolphin watching, coastal cruises, swimming, and special excursions.

Big Game Fishing in Madeira

The sport fishing industry in Madeira has a rich but relatively short history.
It was around 30 years ago that the deep Atlantic Ocean waters off the island’s coast started attracting the interest of big game anglers, lured by marlin, shark and tuna.

But it was in 1973 that the first Atlantic blue marlin was “officially” landed by one Dr António Ribeiro, a magnificent beast reportedly weighing in at 740 lbs.

Since that historic day his sons António and Joe have carried on in their father’s footsteps, and regularly take to the seas in pursuit of the ‘Big One’.

Madeira has over the past few years seen some of the world’s largest blue marlin caught, a fact reflected in results of the annual July 4 Blue Marlin World Cup, the only worldwide blue marlin fishing tournament.  Madeira was the location of winning teams in 1995, 1996 and 1997, and narrowly missed out a fourth time, in 2000.

The marlin season in Madeira runs from May through to October, with the average weight of a fish around 700 lbs.

About one in ten landed is that fish of a lifetime, a grander blue marlin. These huge creatures swim in predominantly calm blue waters, with the run to reach these leviathans practically non-existent. In fact, it is not uncommon to catch fish within 1 km (0.5 mile) of Funchal marina!

Add to this a delightfully temperate climate and safe European waters and it is no surprise that Madeira is considered one of the best blue marlin fishing destinations in the world.

It’s for these reasons that some of the sport’s most famous exponents make their way to this Portuguese island during the summer months and try and reel in a world record. Familiar names like Stewart Campbell, Jerry Dunaway, James Roberts and Tracey Melton have all fished the waters off Funchal.   

As the summer ends and the temperature drops, Madeira’s warm aqua marine waters turn a cooler shade of green. The change in the weather also heralds a new fishing season as the marlin depart and are replaced by open water shoals of bigeye tuna and albacore.

These pelagic migrants provide the angler with opportunities to land some truly world-class species between February and May. Bigeye tuna in excess of 150 lbs are regularly caught, with some even weighing in at over 200 lbs! Albacore, while not so big, still prove a worthwhile adversary and can be lured using lighter tackle.

Cook Your Catch                                

Guests staying at Madeira Island Hotel Casa Velha do Palheiro and successfully fishing on Balancal can have their catch cooked*.

Our skilled captain and his crew will fillet the fish and the team of chefs at Casa Velha will make sure your hard earned Atlantic Ocean prize is cooked to perfection and served at its very freshest flavour.

* Billfish are not included as we operate a release policy. Those fish often caught and ideal for eating include dourado, tuna, wahoo and blue fish.

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